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‘Sneaky Fitch’ is a heck of a meller-drama | Review

Not since Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles” have I laughed so hard at a spoof of the legendary myths of the ol’ Wild West as I did watching friends and neighbors of San Juan Island going through their wild paces in the preview performance of “The Death & Life of Sneaky Fitch,” showing through Saturday in the San Juan Community Theatre.

The best part? Hearing the joyous laughter of youngsters (not recommended for those unsophisticated younguns under 8 years) who were sprinkled around the well-attended showing of James L. Rosenberg’s comedy.

Directed by Jane Maxwell Campbell, a talented cast of galloping, prancing, shouting, rootin’, tootin’ shootin’ performers held the audience wondering to the last as to the final outcome.

This family funfare is a must. The perfectly costumed cast is interactive with the audience during the entire period. Saloon girls were hustling the intermission crowd in the lobby with their feathery boas and dazzling makeup, while respectably clad family folk (from the cast) clucked their disapproval.

Each act is beautifully introduced by guitarist/singer Ed Wilson, whose performances of “The Streets of Laredo,” “Remember the Red River Valley” and his own song, “Silver Jack,” commemorating the legendary father of a friend, give a plaintive ring of authenticity to the simple Gopher Gulch scenery where all action takes place.

I remember singing the first two songs and “You Are My Sunshine” while hitchhiking across the country in 1939 looking for tuition money — work out in the Bay Area.

Each performance now, Merritt Olsen takes a survey to see how many of the audience have come from 50 miles away or more in order to qualify for tourist funds. He counted 26 at the preview (corrected to 28 by board member Farhad Ghatan).

Believe me, guys, if you don’t get your tickets quickly, you might not get a seat during the rest of the run ... it’s that good.

Take a bow, you Gopher Gulch guys and gals: Narrator Jandira Shelley, Sheriff Jack Oglesby, boffo performer two-gun Lisa Moretti, Rev. Dana Rice, stalwart undertaker Warren Baehr, and young thespians Joe Adamo, Sam Paul-Barrette, Tyla McKay and Julia Smith.

Then there’s the fabulous saloon girls: “Maroon” Lynda Guernsey, “Emerald” (Diana Stepita) and “Sapphire” (Hanna Burke).

Special kudos to cast and crew member Sandy Baird (costumes and Mrs. Smit) double-take Greg Hertel (Doc Burch reincarnated as Mrs. Craven) and Tylon Brizendine as Cowboy Clyde (in his first-ever appearance as a body-dragger). Rounding out the cast were righteous womenfolk Melody Rice and Susan Schirmer.

Last but not least, deserving standing ovations: leading man Scott George as Sneaky Fitch, who will have you leaving the theater with a new insight on the John Wayne types of Wild West lore and thrice-slain Nicolas Zervas (as cowboys Joe, Bill and Bob), whose body language embodies that stereotype.

— Contact columnist Howard Schonberger at 378-5696 or hschonberger@sanjuanjournal.com

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